Statutes Amendment (Public Health Incidents And Emergencies) Bill

04 Jun 2009 archivespeech

This speech is in relation to the Statutes Amendment (Public Health Incidents And Emergencies) Bill. The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK moves the amendment and indicates that the rest of them, apart from amendment No. 5, are consequential.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I move:

Page 3, line 3—Delete 'Public Health Incidents and' I will speak broadly to all the amendments as most of them are consequential.

I will treat this as a test clause. As I stated in my second reading contribution, the Liberal Party agrees with the expansion of tasks of emergency officers, which is clause 9 of the bill. It also agrees with the expansion of 'emergency' to include events which are outside the state, which is clause 4, and I think that those are fairly self-evident. We do believe that the bill takes too broad an approach in that it has not identified specific aspects of the acts which are to be amended; rather, it takes a very broad-brushed approach.

I think that this reflects that this bill was introduced in an opportunistic manner rather than refining the bill to amend certain aspects of certain acts. The bill is very broad in its scope. Amendment No. 5 relates to the Controlled Substances Act, and I will treat that one separately. All the amendments, other than amendment No. 5 in my name, establish new powers for Health to declare incidents, and, in so doing, enables it to recruit health staff to perform roles in emergencies. While on face value this might make sense, I would like to draw to the attention of members what these powers are in that, obviously, health staff would be required to perform health duties whereas  these powers are, perhaps, what one might consider to be more in line with police officers, and the like. I will refer to the Emergency Management Act under which officers can already be appointed.

The powers that are provided to those officers include breaking into buildings, taking possession and control over land and destruction of any building, structure, vehicle, vegetation and so forth, which are really not what one would normally consider to be the duties of health staff. In relation to some of the potentially foreseeable circumstances in which there may be a health emergency, for example, at a flu clinic (and I think that the government has mentioned that it would consider establishing flu clinics), one could foresee the scenario where a doctor or a nurse might be dealing with very hysterical people who really should be managed by people who have experience in taking charge of those situations. Rather than that conflicting with their health duties, we believe they should be enabled to continue to perform health tasks and allow those jobs to be done by people who are more suitably emergency services staff. I move the amendment and indicate that the rest of them, apart from amendment No. 5, are consequential.

This will be a test clause.